Now & Then
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “I read the article in today’s newspaper about the ribbon to be cut on August 2nd to open the St. Croix bridge.
“Ribbon cutting to open a bridge — oh, the memories!
“One damp, bone-chilling day in November of 1962, we arrived at my folks’ house early on a Sunday morning. Daddy had telephoned me the night before and told us to be sure to come because he had a big surprise to share with us. He sounded so excited that my guess was that we would be greeted by some favorite Iowa relatives. Nope. No extra cars in the driveway; just the announcement that he was getting sick and tired of waiting for the blankety-blank politicians to get their act together and open the blankety-blank Arcola bridge, so he was going to do it himself, and I was going to be the obligatory queen in attendance.
“I stood my ground. Absolutely not. I was 30 years old, for heaven’s sake, the mother of four young children. I was not going to put on my sister’s old prom dress that Mother had so diligently ironed and take part in his crazy charade! Mother soothingly patted me on the shoulder and said: ‘See, I have Nora’s dress all ready for you, and I’ve made you this nice crown for you to wear. You wouldn’t want to disappoint Daddy, would you, after he has hired photographers and all?’
“So, with that happy bit of news, off we went, everybody bundled up for the weather except me. He drew a small crowd as he cut the ribbon and UNofficially opened the bridge.
“He was happy, and my kids remembered forever after the day their mom was a Frozen Queen for a Day. For the next 20-plus years of my parents’ life, as we drove over that bridge on the way to their house, my kids reminded me as they all shouted ‘We are crossing Mama’s bridge!'”
Mounds View Swede writes: “Subject: Four summer evening photos.
“Towards the end of my branch and twig picking-up from the storm, which took about four days off and on, a blue jay saw me — and started protesting my presence, it sounded like. If eventually flew down to a fence post for a closer look. I took a closer look, too.
“When I saw the dark line from its eye towards the back of its head, it made me think it might be wearing glasses. We’re both getting old! Once it eyeballed me successfully, it flew off without another sound. I must have been ‘all-right’ at that point.
“Undamaged by the hail was this cluster of dianthus blossoms. The white edging around each blossom made them more interesting. How and why it does that is a mystery, of course — one of the things that make this paying more attention kind of fun.
“And now that the Bridal Wreath Spiraea is pretty well finished, a different spiraea type is starting to bloom. I’ve never taken a close look at this before, either, and liked what I found when I did.
“Later that evening, I just sat on the front steps for a while and rested. It was a mostly calm, perfect-temperature time, and no mosquitoes were finding me, so it was enjoyable just to sit and muse. I really liked how the back-lit leaves looked — glowing green. And as I sat and enjoyed the early-summer evening, I noticed cottonwood seeds slowly floating down. As they passed through a sunny area, they would suddenly brighten up. I thought they might make an interesting photo, so I tried catching some of them in a photo. It proved impossible to focus on them plus have a plain background, too, so they would stand out as they moved around with the different wind currents.
“The photos I took were disasters, so I gave up on that idea and just enjoyed this quite, beautiful evening. I was so thankful, again, to be here in Minnesota and living in this community.”
Life on the farm
St. Isidore Division
DebK of Rosemount: “By way of marking the birthday of our friend Master Gardener, Taxman and I hosted a small dinner party last night. Given the birthday girl’s fetish for things horticultural, the evening’s festivities included a tour of the gardens here at St. Isidore Farm. (Truth to tell, the gentlemen members of the gathering opted out of the viewing of the annuals and perennials and vegetables, preferring to occupy the porch swing and rickety rockers from which subsequently emanated discussions of Very Important Matters, facilitated by the ad hoc quaffing of adult beverages.) Because the demands of removing a thick layer of road dust from every surface of the farmhouse had kept me from attending properly to a few of the flower beds, I choreographed the garden tour to focus on my new shade garden/pet cemetery, which I had gotten ’round to weeding. It is a thing of beauty, and Master Gardener oohed and aahed just as I had hoped she would.
“By the time we ladies started back to the house, Master Gardener had launched a passionate theological discussion. Theology being the only thing MG likes more than botany, I figured — wrongly, it turns out — that she would fail to note the unkempt condition of the garden through which our route led. Smack dab in the middle of dissecting a fine point of GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal), MG interrupted herself: ;What is THIS?’ The tone of her interrogatory immediately sent my brain into overdrive, searching frantically for the botanical name of the handsome palmate-leaved plant to which she was gesturing. Alas, peeking out from a profusion of branches of an improperly pruned viburnum, it was a plant I could neither identify nor even remember having planted.
“As I struggled for a response, MG’s question hung there. Either the nonsense I blubbered or the smoke emanating from my ears gave MG to know that I was clueless. As is her ladylike way, she came to my rescue: ‘You’ve got a very nice marijuana plant growing here.’
“Inasmuch as Taxman and I have long and volubly occupied Just Say No territory, this was an acutely embarrassing revelation, necessitating some kind of explanation. Had I been able to pick myself up from the walkway pavers in time, I could very likely have rendered that explanation. But MG beat me to it: ‘I’ll bet birds dropped the seed here.’
“The tide of mortification having turned, I decided to have a little fun with the situation. Before the Cannabis sativa was dispatched to the compost heap, Taxman took a couple of pictures, which he included along with a few other garden photos in an email to our adult children. Now in (or near) their 40s, the kids sometimes (often) see us as tiresomely predictable. We would’ve hated missing this opportunity to shake them up.
“We took perhaps immoderate pleasure in our prank until bedtime, when both of us were suddenly stricken by the fear that the DEA would soon come calling.”
The Permanent Paternal Record
Just in time for Father’s Day, here’s The Rivermouse’s Sister: “Here is one of many, many memories I could share about our wonderful father, and the love he had for us:
“Our dad flew airplanes, ranging from bombers to cargo ships, for the U.S. Marine Corps throughout his adult life, participating in World War II (South Pacific), and also the Korean and Vietnam wars. He was also the father of three daughters, but no sons. He apparently received some ribbing about this, and quipped, in response, that ‘it took more skill to install interior plumbing.’
“I was the youngest by about three years. One summer, my parents were planning to fly my older sisters to North Dakota to visit our grandparents. It was deemed that I was too young to accompany them. I must have made my sorrow and disappointment apparent, because my father obtained the use of a small private plane and took me on a solo flight high above our then home in either North Carolina or Virginia (I can’t remember which), so that I could at least experience a small part of what they were to enjoy.
“We love and miss both of our parents, every day.”
Life as we know it
Including: Know thyself! Leading to: Muse, amuse
Rusty of St. Paul: “I haven’t been to Target Field for a couple of seasons, but went to the Twins/Mariners game yesterday. I’m from St. Paul. I put on my St. Paul Saints T-shirt, then my Boston Red Sox cap (as I used to live in Beantown and spent time at Fenway), and, to complete the ensemble, my vintage Twins Tony-O number 6 jersey.
“Hmmm, it must have shrunk hanging in the closet, as it didn’t fit. Too hot to wear wool anyways. I’m thinking I’m going to retire to the closet for a while and see if I shrink.
“Nice sign at Target Field: ‘It’s a Beautiful Day for a Ball Game.’ It was and always is.”
Vanity, thy name is . . .
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “As the black Corvette passed me on Hamline Avenue in Roseville, I got a good look at the personalized plate: ‘MPG.’
“My response? Show me the numbers!”
Donald: “Subject: Who says there are some things you can’t put a price on?
“From the ‘GO FIGURE’ segment in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated: ‘$190K. Approximate price of the size-13 Converse sneakers, sold at auction on Sunday, that Michael Jordan wore in the final of the 1984 Olympics. The official price was $190,372,80, the most ever for game-worn shoes. Jordan scored a game-high 20 points in the 96-65 win over Spain.’”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Won by 31. Jordan scored 20. We could’ve won without him!
My life in politics
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “On Sunday, I’ll be a delegate to a meeting to endorse a candidate for mayor and folks for school board, for the fall election. I go, whining and complaining, because — as I tell folks — my ‘sit still and shut up’ is broken. I obviously can’t talk politics here, but I thought you’d enjoy some stories.
“The first time I was a delegate, I met every candidate for mayor, but didn’t get to vote to endorse one. My friends were coming to town, and technicalities took up almost all the time until I had to leave. I barely got in one vote for school board before I left. They ended up going on until maybe 10:30 pm, and nominated a guy who went on the radio and promptly ‘shot himself in the foot’ politically. So I’m glad I left early.
“The only thing that made that meeting worthwhile for me was the Potty Pandemonium. We were meeting in a high school that was not handicapped-accessible, as bylaws required. The only handicapped-accessible bathroom was in the girls’ locker room for swimmers, which was down 20-plus steps — and locked. Multiple folks got up to say that they supported accessibility for the handicapped because they had a friend who was handicapped. And there were calls to adjourn (groan!). Then we heard that people were working on the problem (yay!). Eventually it was announced that a handicapped-accessible portable potty was coming (yay!), but it would cost $500 that wasn’t in the meeting budget (sigh!). So a box was set up on the stage, and we watched people march up and place money in it — candidates in the lead. Eventually the money was just sent over to an aisle like ballots, and we resumed tedium.
“In the old days, people enjoyed long political meetings like that. I heard of a couple who drove a camper full of food, etc., to the high school and took turns napping there when no votes were being conducted. As my friend Bob Schlentz said, it was a system designed for the Committed and the Should Be Committed.
“The last time we nominated a mayor was less fun but faster (yay!). I picked my candidate in advance; I was there to wait for votes. The noise and commotion were difficult, though, so when they asked for more tellers, I volunteered and went backstage to count votes.
“For the school board vote, we got down to two good candidates — the second of whom was a young woman. Our aw-shucks-style head teller (who knew ‘a little bit’ about being a teller) had us count the first rounds quickly, then told us to slow down on the third or fourth vote. The young woman candidate was still in second place, and people were persuading her to bow out and ask for a unanimous ballot. Which she did. It is a way of saving time — and face — when the end result is clear.
“Joan, a sage from my area, said the young woman gained points by being gracious, and that folks would remember her the next time she ran for school board. But I don’t think she came back. I wonder if she understood that she would have had a better chance of winning endorsement if she had run again.
“This year we’re endorsing again, and I’m stockpiling books, etc., to get myself through it — at least until I see a good story unfolding. Or I see a likely young-un who might want some coaching re: what is happening.”
Or: Know thy brother!
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Close kin.
“On the first hole of our match in the senior golf league, my younger son inquired of one of our opponents: ‘Are you Lynn’s (another member of the league) brother?’
“Tom immediately replied: ‘Yes. Why, does he owe you money?’
“Another pleasant round followed.”
Where in the world. . .?
Leading to: Great comebacks
Rock Doc of River Falls, Wisconsin: “A recent article in the Pioneer Press recounted people confusing Eden Prairie with Eden Falls, Minnesota. This was most notably used as a plot device in Season 3 of TV’s ‘Fargo.’
“This reminded me of other local town confusions. When I first started teaching at UW-River Falls, I was told stories of legislators driving up to visit campus, stopping short at Black River Falls, and complaining that they couldn’t find the school.
“Among the more amusing stories, though, were some told me by the former owners of the commercial Crystal Cave in Spring Valley, Wisconsin. There is also a Spring Valley, Minnesota, and there is a cave nearby: Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park. Not a surprising coincidence: Both are in valleys in limestone areas with springs. Anyhow, the Crystal Cave Wisconsin owners told me of phone calls from people asking for help finding the cave and being mystified by the instructions they were getting. Finally they realized the callers were looking around in Spring Valley, Minnesota.
“Indeed, even people who found the correct cave seemed confused. A former owner told me of being asked: ‘Didn’t this cave used to be in Minnesota?’
“She would reply: “Yes, the water dripping from the ceiling is from when we had to drag it across the St. Croix.'”
Band Name of the Day: Marijuana Embarrassment — or: Potty Pandemonium
Website of the Day: Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park